Dave Seddon’s PNE Pressview: Preston’s chairman appointment keeps it in the family

PNE chairman Craig Hemmings
PNE chairman Craig Hemmings

On the day the Preston North End players reported back for training, the big news was to come from the boardroom.

The appointment of Craig Hemmings as chairman, son of North End owner Trevor Hemmings, came out of the blue and was received pretty well if a quick scout through social media is an accurate guide.

What came as a surprise is that it was a position which was filled at all.

I say that on the basis that the chairman’s seat around the boardroom table had not been officially filled for a number of years.

Whether the role of Craig Hemmings changes too much with his new title, it remains to be seen.

Having represented his father’s interests at many of the management meetings, he will know chapter and verse of what is going on.

The chairman’s role makes things official and that has to be welcomed.

It is a job that very few people have done down the years and at times it has been a thankless one.

Since 1970, there have been only seven North End chairmen – Tom Nicholson, Alan Jones, Keith Leeming, Bryan Gray, Derek Shaw, Maurice Lindsay and now Craig Hemmings.

For accurracy, Peter Ridsdale held the title ‘chairman of football’ when he arrived in December 2011 and was not appointed to the board.

That was a role he vacated after his director ban, with him having been Trevor Hemmings’ advisor since.

The chairman’s role is a privileged position then, although some of the incumbents might not have thought that during some of the darker days of Preston’s existence.

The word from North End is that Hemmings taking the chairman’s title strengthens the family commitment to the club.

His father remains fully active but at 84 might want to share the decision-making burden a bit more.

So the appointment is a seamless one rather than a new broom coming in, it is a succession plan you would think.

What is encouraging is that Hemmings Jnr has been raised a Preston supporter and clearly has the place at heart.

At the age of 57, he will have seen the ups and downs from the 1970s onwards.

It is unlikely that at this stage Hemmings will be a front of house chairman in terms of media interviews and such like.

His domain will be behind the scenes, helping to run the business in the way he and his family see fit.

It will be business as usual as far as others at the club are concerned.

In the statement put out to announce the chairman role, Hemmings spoke of the ‘close involvement of Peter Ridsdale on all footballing matters’.

Ridsdale will continue to do that, John Kay carries on as chief executive, his role in essence handling the non-footballing side of the club.

Finance director Kevin Abbott’s role is full-time at Deepdale, then there are three non-executive directors in the shape of David Taylor, David Robinson and Anthony Hughes.

Over the years, football, the way it is financed and the way clubs are run, has changed significantly.

In days gone by it was a board of directors sat around the table, local businessmen, traders, whatever, trying to balance the books and make ends meet.

At one stage in the 1980s, PNE had nearly as many directors as it did players as they attempted to bring in more investment – £12,500 got you a seat on the board.

Nowadays most clubs rely on a benefactor in some shape or form, whether that is a Gulf state or a local guy done good.

Some get it right, some get it wrong, and just at the moment there are a couple of examples not too far away at Bolton and Bury, of what can happen when things go badly wrong.

Trevor Hemmings has owned North End outright since 2010.

He gets both plaudits and critics for his investment level, something his son will be well aware of as he takes his boardroom seat.

There will be matters in his in-tray to address, the proposed training ground development at Ingol being a major issue for fans.

It is nearly two years since planning permission was granted – with the strong help of PNE supporters – but there is no sign of the work starting.

Away from the boardroom and moving on to matters on the pitch, the summer break for the Preston squad is well and truly over.

Eight weeks on the beach will already seem a million miles away after a couple of days being put through their paces at Springfields by Alex Neil and his staff.

However much training methods progress and get more scientific, pre-season training will always be a grind and a necessary evil.

Players keep themselves in very good shape during the summer break, in contrast to the era of two weeks spent in Magaluf and the rest in the local boozer.

A fitness programme for the summer back in the day was a quick jog in the run-up to the return to training.

Hence the first few weeks of pre-season training being about shedding the excess.

Nowadays, players hit the ground running and straight away it is about building-up sharpness rather than basic fitness.

Pre-season training was once about running up and down hills, lap after lap of the nearest country park.

North End’s players used to be dragged off to Beacon Fell to burn off the calories, eventually they would get to see a football.

The new season starts five weeks today, lots of work to be packed into that spell.

So far six friendlies have been arranged, the first only a week away at Bamber Bridge.

There’s the now annual trip across the water to Fota Island, the stay in the Emerald Isle including a game against Cork City.

We can expect to see a new face or two arrive in due course, so too departures.

In terms of signings, Neil warned before the end of last season that he might have to play a longer game to land who he wanted.

It has turned out that way, patience a virtue.